Haiti Renewal Called For At CEMOTAP

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[Global: Pan-African]

To celebrate Dr. James MacIntosh’s 62nd Birthday, April 24, 2010, his Co-Chair of CEMOTAP Betty Dobson invited Distinguished Scholar Dr. Ron Daniels to speak on “The Rise of Haiti.”

In keeping with a previous pronouncement by Dr. MacIntosh that “Betty determines who speaks” while he “focuses on World Peace,” the chosen Keynote Speaker was right on target, with his “A Game” as he reflected on past, present and future scenarios on Haiti, in light of recent developments. Upcoming, on May 22, 3:00 pm, at the Jamaica Arts Center ( A church) at Jamaica Avenue and 161st Street,  CEMOTAP will celebrate 23 years, having Haki Madhabuti as Keynote speaker.

To begin, 83 year-old Rev. Charles Norris, Pastor Emeritus of Bethesda Missionary Church opened the proceedings with a prayer. With a blessing he began singing “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear, What a privilege it is to carry everything to god in Prayer. Oh what trials and tribulations we face, Oh what needless  pain we bear, Only because we do not carry everything to god in prayer.” Then he outlined out his relationships to the principals and gave his blessings before he had to depart.

In introducing the Guest Speaker, Dr. MacIntosh informed Dr. Ron Daniels, Founder and President of the Institute of the Black World, was helping with direct aid to Haiti before it was popular, long before the earthquake.

For long, he took medicine, school supplies and people to Haiti because he early recognized the importance of that beautiful land. Therefore, this spotlight is so appropriate for a man seeming to possess boundless energy, remarkable vision and an articulateness that compares with the best of modern orators. He indicated Dr. Daniels had written the “Black Pledge,” that inter alia read: "We are an African people, we will remember the suffering of our ancestors, we will honor our elders ...."

Dr. Daniels said both himself and Betty Dobson as well as Preston Wilcox were products of the greater Youngston, Ohio, area.
Thereafter, in a tour de force oration, some call an “A GAME,” Dr. Daniels insisted "Haitian children should remain in Haiti," and then waylaid the issue of Haiti, focusing on a multitude of contexts, viz., history, culture, religion, medicine, liberation, Pan-Africanism, ethnicity, tourism, the Clintons, and the roles of indigenous and diasporian Haitians as well as Black Americans in the Renaissance of the New Haiti. The master, in articulate artistry, sketched side by side murals of the significance and symbolism of the old and new Haiti.

To achieve such, he pointed to Haiti as being contextualized within the Haitian Revolution; but even this phenomenon needs be assessed within a broader framework of greater and more deadly physical and psychological implications of slave experience, the MAAFA or Great Enslavement. To explicate such, he referenced two phenomenal classics, Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery and Walter Rodney’s How Europe Under-Developed Africa. A third equally important volume in the tragedy and triumph of Haiti is C.L.R. James’ masterful The Black Jacobins, about the Haitian Revolution. These powerful works that should be in every thinking man's library, constructively articulates the relationship between Europe and Africa in that terrible experience called "a crime against humanity" and the long lasting effect it has had.  

First, Ron Daniels referred to a New York Times article of Friday, April 23, 2010, wherein the “Professor at the Beer Summit” Skip Gates decried calls for reparations because “Africans were involved in the Slave trade.”  Pointing out that slavery existed from the earliest times, Daniels insisted, however, "British and American chattel slavery was different and much more brutal!" He did admit some Africans were involved in selling other Blacks, but these he considered "stooges" of the White man. 
He likened this behavior to the drug dealer plague in the Black community; but these too are also stooges of the drug barons who poison our communities. Nevertheless, and whereas from ancient times people were considered slaves from military, cultural or ethnic perspectives; he pointed out, New World slavery was racial.

Previously persons were enslaved from circumstances, but these slaves had families, owned property and could even attain high levels in a society, but this was not so in the Americas with the African.

He argued, while any slavery should not be condoned, Africans did not initiate Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade nor were they its primary beneficiaries. They did not get ships and begin trading with the New World.  However, Africans were brutally victimized in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and when they got to the American shores they were again ill-treated in the institution of slavery, forced to labor for free building this nation and that itself justifies the claims for reparations.  This is why, because of this fact, Africans should not have overlooked, but have had a passion for Haiti because of the incredible phenomenon of its experience; to wit, he argued, the Haitian Revolution was the most phenomenal compared to the other two, American and French; that is, within the context of human rights in that age.

As such, the American Revolution, whose watchword was “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was about political representation within the British Empire. However, the French Revolution was class representation within the French cultural context. The Haitian Revolution, on the other hand, was about physical freedom and liberation of the human spirit.  All this developed within the rise of Europe, its expansion overseas and subsequent conquest, extermination, domination and exploitation of non-white peoples, giving rise to the notion and practice of “white supremacy.”

Europeans intruded into Africa, Daniels explained, and not only ultimately dominated the continent, but importantly diffused Africans all over the New World.  These were to be enslaved in European plantation culture, manned by Europeans, benefitting Europeans and Europe. Haiti, the land called "Hispaniola," was a rich prize of early naked imperialism and generated intense competition among colonialist nations.

In that horrifying experience, European overseas expansion was fueled by economic theories of “bullionism,” “specie accumulation” through “mercantilism” that regulated “balance of trade” and other capitalist and imperialist strategies and practices as propounded by the Adam Smiths of the age.  In this unusual experience Europeans perpetuated a practice of conquering, brutalizing and killing while instilling a fear-filled superior/inferior people oriented mentality. As Dr. Daniels pointed out, “No where until now was race used as a basis for subjugation of a people.”

Using history as a profound example, the Professor showed even ancient chauvinism was based on culture, nationality, but never on race. Even the Greeks, the ancient Greeks, saw non-Greeks as inferior because of their nationality, not their race. Cletus, Commander of Alexander’s cavalry regiment was African! So too, the Roman who viewed others not on race, but culture. A black Roman would see others irrespective of color, as inferior, simply because they were non-Roman! As such, Sappho the poetess and Aesop were Africans!  They were African Emperors of Rome and many of the theorists of the early Christian church, the “church fathers,” were Africans.  There were 3 African popes! Herodotus, the “father of history” praised the ancient Ethiopians as “the most just of men.” The most beautiful people! Certainly he did not consider them inferior! Only until the Atlantic Slave Trade with its horrendous Middle Passage and dehumanizing Triangular Trade pattern was race made a factor. However, importantly, the trade never began on a racial note but as a cold, calculated, capitalist business venture. Nevertheless, here was experienced the “crafting of race” and projecting white over black with “black at the back and base"  of the “white supremacy myth.”

Therefore, the nature of “white supremacy” is such that white is superior and black is inferior, and all shades lie between. Such was instrumental in the old adage: “If you are white, you’re all right; if you’re brown you could stick around; if you’re yellow, you’re mellow; but if you’re black, get back!” So European theorists, Gobineau and others of like mind, crafted the theory of race, and created Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid races of peoples, with Negroid or black farthest from white. To divide and further subjugate the black race they bastardized them; then they created human color schemes as octoroons, quadroons, etc. The maroons, however, were rebellious!

Dr. Daniels explained, the American Revolution (1776-1783) was essentially a fight between the British and their colonial kin. Meanwhile, Africans, on the other hand, were simultaneously enslaved, considered de jure and de facto as less than humans.  The French Revolution (1789-1791) was a class struggle among French men. Concurrently, in the era of extolling the "Rights of Man" both the British and Americans and the French were involved in subjugating, exploiting and dehumanizing Africans in institutions of slavery while still proclaiming “All men are born free and are created equal, endowed by their creator with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and equally exhorted calls of “liberty, equality, fraternity” Undoubtedly, practiced exclusion meant Africans were not considered men! The syllogistic calculus, with its major and minor premises and derivative conclusion argues: 1. "All men are equal; 2. Africans are enslaved; 3. Africans are not men"

The Haitians stood up. They said No. “We are men! No to slavery! Haiti will be free!” Perhaps they coined the old Negro spiritual, "Before I be a slave, I go home  to my grave to be free." They launched the Haitian Revolution to uphold that contention, rid their island of slavery and in process, unintentionally sent a message to nations that subjugated fellow men. "These black men and women of Haiti gave us dignity when we were down on our knees," Dr. Daniels affirmed. In this effort, they defeated three of the best armies of the time. They crushed the Spanish, defeated the British and humiliated the French. This revolutionary action shattered the "myth of white supremacy" and was to ultimately prove very costly for Haiti.

Brother Ron Daniels contended: The Haitian Revolution was led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, who, though he won the battle lost the war. After defeating the French he believed he could develop a cordial relationship with France. He was a statesman and tried to be diplomatic, pleasing to everyone! However, while some French wanted to accommodate his aspirations, creating Haiti as an Overseas Department with Toussaint L’Ouverture as its governor; along came Napoleon Bonaparte, ranked with Hannibal as a great military strategist, who viewed such actions as “uppity” and insisted Haiti must be re-conquered. In order for him to confront the British and Americans in North America, Napoleon had to hold on to Haiti. In order to exploit the enormous potential riches of the Mississippi River valley, he had to subjugate Haiti! In order to maintain a credible French empire in the New World, he had to crush the Haitian Revolution. So Napoleon invited Toussaint to France and kidnapped him! Toussaint died in a French dungeon because he had humiliated the French in an age of empire. 

Thereafter, the Haitians got serious and declared their independence from France under Dessalines on January 1, 1804. He was followed by Henri Christophe, Andre Peitein and voodoo priestesses who imbued spirituality into the movement and must also be given recognition in the role they played in assuring Haiti's independence.  This achievement, glorious in its inward manifestation and phenomenal in its outward implications should have been celebrated by freedom loving individuals worldwide. However, this was not so, and the road there and thenceforward has not only been interesting, complicated, but also strewn with pitfalls. Yet, Haiti engaged, as Professor Daniels indicated, some of the most significant personalities in African American and Haitian experience who saw the beautiful land as more than projected and fought to uphold the significance and symbolism it represented.

Dr. Daniels pointed out, Buckman came to Haiti from Jamaica in 1791 and proved a tremendous force aiding the revolution. The leaders, men and women, “prayed and provided the spiritual power that undergirded the revolution.” Haiti had sent black men to fight at the Battle of Savannah during the American Revolution.  These soldiers “had learned the white man’s ways.” They learned military techniques, how to fire the canon and saw the white man killed in the American Revolution. They put this knowledge to good use against the French, British and Spanish. Equally they had seen “The white man’s god!” "They had seen the behaviors of those who preached and practiced the white man’s religion." This they rejected, prayed and affirmed, “Our god is a just god! Our god will not fail us.” What they were recognizing was one god no matter what he was called. This world view was the prototype of liberation theology.

The Haitian Revolution benefitted America tremendously and should have been more appreciated with a special relationship between the two nations. Besides Haitians fighting in the War of Independence; with his plans thwarted, Napoleon was forced to sell the Louisiana Purchase to Thomas Jefferson for, by today's standards, the measly sum of $15 million. This purchase doubled the size of the nation at start of the 19th Century. Therefore, from very early Haiti should have enjoyed a special relationship  with America. Her accomplishments, however, were not celebrated but she was isolated, marginalized, stigmatized, later forced to pay reparations to France and invaded by the US in 1915 until 1934.

The contradiction facing America was thus the status of its subjugated African population on the one hand, and usefulness of celebrating the Haitian Revolution against the injustice of slavery on the other. Dr. Daniels contended, such persons as Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner, perhaps even David Walker must have known of the Haitians' success and the inspiration it must have imbued them with. Frederick Douglass certainly did, as he was an American envoy to Haiti. In the birth of the NAACP, Walter White and James Weldon Johnson championed Haiti's cause. The AME Church's James Theodore Holly found great solace in the religious nature of the Haitian people and like so many others, worked to uplift Haiti. Mr. Daniels mentioned $2 billion was collected for Haiti. $1 billion was collected in the United States. At the Donor's Conference they hoped to raise $4 billion in 18 months but instead they raised $10 billion over a 4-year period. He therefore insisted we must follow the  money trail.

Haiti has its problems. It has its thugs. Dr. Daniels referred to "a backward elite that has been in complicity with the US and other power brokers' interests." They are the "ones who benefitted from US support" of the dreaded Duvalier regimes simply because they were anti-communist. He mentioned pressures against Haitian farmers "who could grow enough rice to feed the entire Caribbean." In addition erudite professor noted how in the recent swine flu scare, all the Haitian pigs were slaughtered even though they were resistant to many forms of disease. End result, "import pigs from abroad." Nevertheless, "because the preponderant picture of the Haitians is that they are a proud people, we must stand with the Haitian brothers and sisters."

He cautioned about trade patterns between the United States and Haiti and said, "We must offer help to farmers." He indicated his organization has developed a "seeds program" to buy seeds for farmers. The function of the "Oasis Institute" is to proved a "complete rap around service" of food, clothing and shelter as well as education to aid Haitian children, remaining in Haiti. They are partnering with 7 black adoption agencies in hope to create an "Oasis Guardian" program. He lamented the loss of women's issue advocates lost in the earthquake and this has set back their cause allowing all types of on-toward behaviors against women. However, next April 2011, his group intends to take 2300 people on a Haiti Cruise, a "Pilgrimage of Hope" to stay in the north 3 to 4 days. There people can visit the Citadel, do some hands on work with the people, even purchase Haitian art to stimulate the local economy.

Finally, he insisted the Haitian people must assume their role as a principal Pan-African nation in this hemisphere. "We do not want to rebuild Haiti," Dr. Ron Daniels exhorted, "We want a new Haiti!"

Please post your comments directly or submit them to milton@blackstarnews.com

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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